Why It Works
- While it's best known as a part of a good mai tai, this almond syrup is also an exciting substitute for simple syrup or grenadine in mixed drinks or a fun addition to pie fillings, milkshakes, and even coffee.
- You can find what you need to make orgeat at most grocery stores.
Orgeat (pronounced "or-zsa," like Zsa Zsa Gabor) is an almond syrup enhanced with a touch of flower water. It's an essential ingredient in Tiki drinks, because it ties together the multiple spirits and juices that are the hallmark of tropical cocktails. But orgeat's sophisticated French origins also shine through in more minimalist concoctions.
What's Available to Buy?
Cocktail geeks have been going nuts for orgeat for ages, but there's a reason you don't see it in many home bars: The good stuff is hard to find. Small-batch producer Small Hand Foods uses real almonds and sugar and doesn't use any fillers or artificial flavors. These syrups are delicious! But, at $22 for 250 milliliters, they're pretty expensive.
Some specialty stores carry these brands, but most people will have to order online and pay for shipping. No matter how amazing, these are still flavored syrups. Frankly, when it comes to my monthly cocktail budget, I'd rather put the cash toward a bottle of Punt e Mes vermouth (everyone has a monthly cocktail budget, right? It's not just me?).
Torani syrups, like the stuff you put in 'Italian sodas' are inexpensive and easy to find. However, take a look at the ingredients on the label of Torani orgeat: You'll see that somehow almonds didn't make it onto the list. Trader Vic's may be the home of the original mai tai, but their orgeat is loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and preservatives—and yet no almonds. Since no almonds mean no almond oil, these products never separate and are always a perfect milky white color. Most of the ingredients are there to control appearance and increase shelf life. Mmm, delicious shelf life...
Often people think that if something is pricey and hard to find, making it from scratch must be a pain. Not so with orgeat! Making your own high-quality orgeat with all-natural ingredients takes 15 minutes work and costs about $6. You can sip your cocktails with pride, knowing your almond syrup is actually made with real almonds and sugar and not ingredients created in a lab.
You'll be able to find what you need to make orgeat at most grocery stores. I've experimented with dozens of recipes, some requiring several kinds of almonds, special water, and more complex techniques. So far this no-fuss recipe is my favorite. Bonus: Cleanup is minor, with only one sticky pot to wash.
For something more dry and urbane, try a classic Japanese Cocktail, a devastatingly tasty drink that will revolutionize your stiff-drinks repertoire.
You can also add a few splashes of orgeat to champagne or club soda. Once you try it, you'll be an orgeat lover for life.
2 cups raw almonds, sliced or chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon orange flower water (see notes)
1 ounce vodka
Toast almonds at 400°F (200°C) for 4 minutes, shaking after 2 minutes.
Cool almonds and then pulverize them with a blender or food processor.
In a saucepan, cook sugar and water on medium heat until sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to boil, about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add pulverized almonds and simmer on low heat, stirring frequently. When mixture is about to boil, remove from heat and cover. Let it sit for a minimum of 3 hours and no more than 12 hours.
Strain steeped mixture through 3 layers of cheesecloth into a bowl, squeezing the cloth as you go.
Add orange flower water and vodka, then stir. Funnel into a glass jar or bottle.
Store in the refrigerator, for no more than one month.
This orgeat is darker in color than some other recipes because the skins are left on the almonds. I like the richer color and extra almond flavor this adds. If you prefer a sweeter, milky-white orgeat, use blanched almonds. Since there are oils in almonds, the syrup will separate. Shake before each use.
Orange flower water can be found at some grocery stores and Mediterranean markets, as well as online.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 1g||1%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 30g||11%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||1%|
|Total Sugars 30g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|